Civil Rights Group Calls for an “Intervention” to Take Hate Out of the Immigration Debate

Washington, DC – Decrying the surge in hate speech and violence that has surrounded the immigration debate, the National Council of La Raza (NCLR), the largest national Hispanic civil rights and advocacy organization in the U.S., launched a campaign today to end hate speech in the immigration debate and called on presidential candidates and news media networks to divorce themselves from known hate and vigilante groups and to end rhetoric that demonizes immigrants and Hispanic Americans.
"The immigration issue deserves serious debate and serious solutions,” said Janet Murguía, NCLR President and CEO. “We cannot have that debate as long as hate has the floor."
Murguía chastised cable news television for “handing hate a microphone” over the past three years by hosting spokespeople from hate and vigilante groups such as Dan Stein of Federation for American Immigration Reform and Jim Gilchrist and Chris Simcox of the Minuteman Project more than 110 times, usually identifying them only as “anti-immigration advocates.” She singled out television pundits such as CNN’s Lou Dobbs and Glenn Beck and MSNBC political commentator Pat Buchanan for parroting hate speech and driving the immigration debate in a manner that demonizes the Hispanic community.
Presidential candidates who seize on the immigration issue to avoid talking about other issues such as Iraq and the economy also came under fire from Murguía. She faulted them for “amigo shopping,” a derogatory term used by suburban youth who attack and rob day laborers knowing that their victims have little recourse. Murguía specifically called on Mike Huckabee, 2008 presidential candidate and former governor of Arkansas, to renounce the endorsement of, and sever all ties to, Jim Gilchrist, a cofounder of the Minuteman Project and a self-avowed “vigilante.”
“There’s a bully in the room,” said Murguía, “and each of these candidates has a choice. They can stand up to the bully or they can cater to him. It is a question of courage or cowardice. To date, we have seen far too little courage.”
Relying heavily on documentation provided by the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Anti-Defamation League, Murguía catalogued the rise in the use of code words that label immigrants and Latinos as a threat to the American way of life. She articulated four categories of code words, rhetoric that:
• Refers to immigrants as “an army of invaders” or an “invading force”
• Associates immigrants with animals and refers to them as “a massive horde” or “swarm”
• Accuses immigrants of “bringing crime and disease” to America, including “leprosy, tuberculosis, and malaria” and “gang warfare”
• Purveys the conspiracy theory of “reconquista” or “Atzlán” – the taking back of lands in the southwestern United States for Mexico
(Click here to view a short video reel illustrating some examples
NCLR is conducting a campaign to educate Americans about the use of hate speech and the growing rise in violence against Latinos. Called the “Wave of Hope Campaign,” it features:
• An anti-hate website entitled “We can stop the hate ”
• Engaging media networks and candidates to separate themselves from hate groups and hate speech
o This week, NCLR wrote to Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee asking him to renounce the support of, and sever all ties to, Jim Gilchrist.
o NCLR also wrote to three cable news networks – Fox, CNN, and MSNBC – asking to meet with top management about extremists appearing regularly on their programming and ending the hate speech parroted by network news commentators.
• Working with other minority groups to confront hate speech
• Asking candidates to elevate the debate and “pledge” to reject hate speech
Stating that “words have consequences,” Murguía pointed to an FBI report which shows a 23% rise in violence against Latinos. “To the Latino community,” said Murguía, “the surge in hate speech and violence is appalling. But, it should be appalling to everyone.”
Murguía said she recognized that ultimately the power to change the debate lies with the Hispanic community itself. “Latinos buy products from the advertisers supporting these programs,” she said. “Latinos vote in primaries and in the general election. We have a significant role to play picking winners and losers in both arenas. We need to make it clear to those who embrace hate that they do so at their own economic and political peril.”


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